Get the Fat Out: Fat Tire Aficionado Offers Winter Cycling Tips
local bicyclist Jereme Rauckman used to hate winter. Until he tried fat tire biking.
As an avid cyclist, Jereme Rauckman used to hate winter. After pounding the trails during the warm months, from November to April he’d hole up indoors, pining for springtime and losing whatever physical fitness he’d gained from biking.
“Then fat bikes started gaining in popularity, and suddenly there was this way to continue doing something I loved all year long,” said Rauckman, a youth cycling coach and a member of the Chippewa Off Road Bicycle Association. “Turns out there was a long-term side-effect, too – it helped me gain an appreciation for winter. Now I not only fat-bike, but I also enjoy cross country skiing and snowshoeing.”
Volume One asked Rauckman about the ups and downs and fat-tire biking and what novices should know about getting into this growing winter sport.
Volume One: What kind of winter biking do you do? Fat tire, or with other bikes, too?
Jereme Rauckman: I have various bikes, but come winter, my outdoor rides are almost exclusively on my fat bike. When there’s snow on the ground, no other kind of bike beats it. Even before the snow has fallen, though, the combination of fat tires and frozen ground make for great rides exploring over terrain that might not be easily rideable other times of the year.
Riding through a grove of snow-covered pines the morning after a winter storm is an experience that sticks with you. Same goes for nighttime rides where the reflection of the moon on the snow means you don’t need a light, and when you stop along the trail everything is just so still and silent.
FAT TIRE BIKER
What is the most enjoyable part of winter biking? The least enjoyable?
The most enjoyable part is getting out into the woods during such a beautiful time of year. Riding through a grove of snow-covered pines the morning after a winter storm is an experience that sticks with you. Same goes for nighttime rides where the reflection of the moon on the snow means you don’t need a light, and when you stop along the trail everything is just so still and silent.
The least enjoyable part, to me, is the cold. I’d imagine that’s most winter cyclists’ least favorite part. You can bundle up and beat the cold, though, and you warm up pretty quick pedaling a bike through sometimes heavy snow. That there is a less enjoyable part, too – even with fat tires, deep snow can be difficult or even impossible to ride in. That’s why a lot of trail organizations now groom mountain bike trails specifically for winter fat-biking. Groomed trails have really upped the fun factor in recent years.
Assuming more people are opening to trying it out because of the pandemic, why would you recommend biking in winter to those who haven’t tried it?
In any normal year, Wisconsin’s long, cold winters can be tough to bear if you shelter inside and spend the short days pining for spring. It’ll be even worse in the coming months as social distancing limits indoor gatherings. Winter biking will get you outside, keep you fit, and teach you to embrace the cold and snow.
Can you offer a few basic tips for beginners?
As tempting as it is to put on the warmest clothes you have before going out, it’s better to dress so you’re a little cold to start. As you ride, you’ll heat up and get more comfortable. Dress in layers, too, so you can take things off as you warm up. A fun way to get started winter biking is to ride with others. Local Facebook Groups like CORBA Trails Community and Shift Adventure Club are great places to learn about group rides and trail systems. You’ll need a fat bike if you want to ride mountain bike trails after the snow falls. Regular mountain bike tires are too narrow to be effective and aren’t allowed on some groomed trails. Stay off of groomed ski trails, unless fat biking is specifically allowed (such as at Lowes Creek County Park). The fat biking community tends to be pretty laid back. Don’t take it too seriously, and don’t worry about buying a bunch of high-end gear. Find a trail, find your own speed, and leave thoughts of spring behind for a while.
CORBA’s annual Powder Keg snowshoe, fat bike, and cross-country ski races are virtual this year, and will run Feb. 5-14 at Lowes Creek County Park just outside Eau Claire. Learn more at corbatrails.org/events/2021-powder-keg.